Before the final day of pool play competition even began, the semifinalists of the 2018 FIVB Club World Championship had already been determined, and, in an unexpected turn of events, reigning Russian, European, and World Champ Zenit Kazan was not in the quartet of teams moving on to the next round.
Even with USA’s Matt Anderson, Russia’s Maxim Mikhaylov, and France’s Earvin N’Gapeth combining for what is the world’s most fearsome offense—at least on paper—Kazan fell first to Fakel Novy Urengoy and then to Cucine Lube Civitanova, both in five sets.
In the first match, N’Gapeth and Mikhaylov each contributed 19 points for Kazan, while Anderson added 17, but on the opposite side of the net, Fakel had three players with more than 20 points: Belarus’ Artur Udrys and Russia’s Dmitry Volkov and Egor Kliuka.
Fakel and Kazan compete in the Russia Superleague and are both undefeated in league matches. The opener of the Club World Champs marked Kazan’s first loss of the season across all competitions. The two teams will face off in Superleague competition as soon as they return home to Russia from the Club World Champs in Poland.
On the second day of pool play, Kazan matched up with Italy’s Cucine Lube Civitanova in a rematch of the 2017 FIVB Club World Championship final. Kazan had a 14-10 lead in the fifth, but Lube refused to give in and ended up winning 19-17, ending Kazan’s hopes of a World Champs repeat. Bulgarian opposite Tsvetan Sokolov led Lube with 20 points.
Lube kept that momentum rolling in its third and final match of the pool on Thursday, sweeping Fakel, with Team USA’s Brenden Sander coming in off the bench in sets two and three, to earn the top spot in Pool A.
Fakel, which includes American libero Erik Shoji, scored a five-set victory over Skra Belchatow, finishing pool play with a 2-1 record and a spot in the semifinals.
Lube’s fellow Italian SuperLega squad Trentino Volley also went undefeated in pool play and will face Fakel in Saturday’s semis. U.S. Men’s National Team outside hitter Aaron Russell starred in his club’s four-set victory over 2016 World Champ Sada Cruzeiro of Brazil, scoring a team-leading 24 points.
French outside hitter Thibault Rossard led Asseco Resovia to its own defeat of Cruzeiro, tallying a match-high 22 points. A subsequent sweep of Iran’s Khatam Ardakan guaranteed a semifinal spot for Resovia, which features Team USA setter Kawika Shoji and middle Dave Smith, and the Polish squad finished pool play with a 2-1 record after losing in straight sets to Trentino in its final pool match.
Tune in right here on FloVolleyball to watch the semifinals of the 2018 FIVB Men’s Club World Championships. See the schedule below.
2018 FIVB Men’s Club World Championship Semifinals
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018
10:30 AM CT Cucine Lube Civitanova vs. Asseco Resovia
1:30 PM CT Fakel Novy Urengoy vs. Trentino Volley